Lily and I first met during Welcome Week, when we found out that we both lived in Goddard Hall. After freshman year, we became suite mates at NYU Shanghai and transitioned into coffee date buddies in New York.
I consider this interview to be special; not only is Lily the one who introduced me to coffee culture, but also, she teaches me what it means to be a good listener and a more tolerant person.
In our first coffee date at Kopi Kopi, Lily told me about her then-recent interest in the coffee experience; cafes provided her with a way to slow down and get to know the person with whom she was speaking. I still remember one specific phrase during our conversations: “It’s not about you.” We had been speaking about taking criticism or circumstances more personally than we should, but this quote was food for thought. In light of our ever-decreasing attention spans, individuals who take the time to listen are rare. Even rarer are those who listen and truly empathize with others, and Lily is someone who does this naturally.
In this interview, Lily talks about her passion for the fashion industry, how she overcame her anxiety, and a few of her lifelong goals.
Occupation: Student, coffee enthusiast, and incoming Planner at Gap Inc.
Favorite Coffee or Tea: Regular hot latte with whole milk because I like the creamy taste of it—it’s warm, not too bitter, and good for conversation.
Tell me something quirky about you.
For the past year, I’ve been into competitive cooking shows, like MasterChef, Top Chef, and other Food Network and Netflix shows. Whenever I’m cooking, I always talk big and pretend like I’m an expert, but I’m really not.
How did you develop your interest in fashion?
I realized that back in high school, I used to rip out photos from luxury brands and put them all over the walls in my room. Fast forward to my sophomore year, I noticed and loved all of the interesting New York fashions and saw people walking around with unique perspectives on what to wear and what’s trendy. Even though I was always into it, I didn’t know that I could develop a career out of it. Most people think that “fashion” either involves design or becoming a sales associate, but there are so many different roles in fashion, from business to creative—there are all of the in-between roles, from the ideation phase to the people actually wearing it and modeling it.
“Eccentric frugal minimalist city chic”
What is your favorite outfit?
My personal taste is all over the place—there are days where I’m dressed super girly or minimalist, and other days when I’m wearing more of an athleisure look. Recently, I’ve gotten into streetwear brands like Adidas, Supreme, and Y-3, and I’ve been following Hypebeast.
From personal experience, you USE MANY creative adjectives to describe fashion. How would you describe your own?
Eccentric frugal minimalist city chic.
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
A lot of online influencers from Instagram (@ImJennIm, @SoothingSista, @Wearetothe9s), YouTube, and Reddit. My fashion inspiration also comes from what I see on the street and in stores, and I find anything that will fit me because I’m small. It’s hard for me to emulate many of the fashion trends because I’m so petite. But as long as you know how to wear something with confidence and match something with it, you can get away with full H&M outfits—even in high-fashion environments like Prada.
Can you tell me about a transformative experience in your life?
For me, it was probably my first two years of college. I felt a lot of pressure from my peers and my parents to pursue a very traditional Finance route. During my freshman summer, I did an accounting internship. After that, I realized accounting was not for me—I was super unhappy doing it. I thought, “If this is what my life is going to be, I am going to be really unhappy.”
I had a quarter-life crisis, and it was around that time that I joined NYU LARA (Luxury And Retail Association). It was my first exposure into the business side of fashion and retail. After talking to the people in the club, I decided to give fashion a shot, and I did my first internship in the fashion industry my sophomore summer. Even though I was unpaid, running around the city sweaty, and had no AC on the floor, I still loved it because I could see the tangible product at the end, the direct effect I had upon it, and enjoyed the people who worked in this space. In each of my fashion jobs, I haven’t experienced the stereotypical, catty, “Devil Wears Prada” type of people—everyone’s nice and very passionate. I like the culture, people, the work, and the product. After a while, I stopped having anxiety over what people wanted me to do, regardless of people telling me things like, fashion wasn’t worth it or I wasn’t going to get paid enough.
Lily managing the 2017 NYU ACE Fashion Show
What is something that you struggle with, and what steps have you taken to overcome this issue?
Anxiety. In the beginning of college, it was hard to live up to everyone’s expectations—having a high enough GPA, taking the right classes, being in the right clubs—and I created a huge strain on myself. I started developing some health issues because of my anxiety, and it took me a while to overcome these feelings of worry and self-doubt.
Talking with people whom I trust and having these close, intimate moments with them helped me face my worries head on. I used to try to minimize my anxiety by telling myself that “everyone is stressed out, too.” I realized that I do have my own problems and it’s better to figure out a way to get over them, and that the accomplishments that I have achieved in my college career are merited and it isn’t just dumb luck. I would think things like, “I just got lucky” or “they probably didn’t have a lot of interviewees for this position.” Recognizing that imposter syndrome is something real helped me with coming to terms with myself.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Stop caring so much about what other people think of you because most likely, they don’t think that much of you. I used to get so self-conscious about everything, like my actions, my clothes, my grades, and my personality that I would try to act a certain way to fit a status quo. I would get really emotional when I didn’t meet those expectations.
Ultimately, people forget what you were wearing and the little mistakes that you made, even if you remember it. Be more carefree and don’t care what other people think. This advice has helped me lead a less stressful life and one that is more genuine to myself.
Lily & Jesse
Who is someone who inspires you and why?
My boyfriend Jesse, because he’s smart, accomplished, and works really hard, but he’s so humble and he keeps it to himself. He’s not one to brag or let everyone know what he’s doing. He does things for himself, does them in his own way, and remains true to himself when he works. He inspires me to work hard and succeed for myself, and not for anybody else.
What have you always wanted to try?
My fun answer would be: going to culinary school, learning the real techniques, and how to cook properly with training. I took a cooking class over the semester and now I want to learn more!
What is something that you wish people knew about you?
I’m a very empathetic and kind person, in the sense that I recognize that everyone has their own individual problems, but there’s not enough listeners in the world. If anyone ever has stresses or problems they need to express or rant about, I would be more than happy to sit down, talk with them, and try to help them with their problem because so many people have done the same for me.
What are three things that you would like to accomplish in life?
- Be at both a stable and satisfied point in my life in terms of my career.
- A lifelong goal of mine is to work my way up to being truly satisfied and truly happy with myself and the things I’ve done in my life.
- To always stay curious, try new things, and find new hobbies to do. I never want to get so bogged down in the mundane that I lose my sense of imagination and curiosity.